“How sweet all at once it was for me to be rid of those fruitless joys which I had once feared to lose and was now glad to reject! You drove them from me, you who are the true, the sovereign joy. You drove them from me and took their place, you who are sweeter than all pleasure, though not to flesh and blood, you who outshine all light yet are hidden deeper than any secret in our hearts, you who surpass all honour though not in the eyes of men who see all honour in themselves. At last my mind was free from the gnawing anxieties of ambition and gain, from wallowing in filth and scratching the itching sore of lust. I began to talk to you freely, O Lord my God, my Light, my Wealth, and my Salvation.” (Confessions, 181)
God is always in control of every situation. We see God’s work every day at Covenant School. Over the last few years, He has provided everything the school needs – strong leadership, excellent staff, financial resources, great partnerships and you.
The COVID 19 scare that hit the nation and the world made the end of our school this year very different. Our teachers and staff adapted, and by all accounts we delivered continued education right up to the end of the school year. The impact of the pandemic is going to have a long-term impact on education. I encourage you to read Dr. Hefner’s article that was published in the Herald-Dispatch.
Even in the midst of this international pandemic, we are seeing good things at Covenant School. I want to draw your attention to the following:
- We are building an addition onto Christ Temple’s building. This will ultimately provide at least three new classrooms for us to use.
- We are seeing excellent retention rates with current students for next year and are also seeing a good number of new students coming to us in both Kindergarten and other grades.
As we thank God for this success, we should also point out that our friends at Christ Temple continue to bless us with their generosity and commitment to see excellent Christian education take place in Huntington. Their gift of their facilities is a tremendous blessing. For that we are exceptionally grateful.
Thank you for trusting your children’s education to the teachers at Covenant School. Our goal is to help them develop a strong Christian world view and graduate ready to stand for Christ in a world that continues to move farther and farther away from the principles of God. Note: If you haven’t read the school’s profile of a graduate, I really encourage you to read it and meditate on it and pray those things for your child.
May God bless you this summer and continue to bless our school for many years to come!
If you’ve been on Facebook in the past couple months, odds are you have seen a video circulating news feeds about our school. This video highlights our time spent working from home, after COVID-19 and government guidelines restricted us from meeting in person.
Although our year ended in a way we could have never expected, we were moved by the way we as a school community faced the challenge head on, never quitting, but rather, adjusting, innovating and moving forward.
Our First Grade Teacher, Mindy Stanley, said it well as we embarked on uncharted territory: online, classical, k-12 education. Stanley, who has been teaching since 1975, has watched the world of education change rapidly around her, but this pandemic was unlike anything she’d ever experienced. Because she loves her students, however, she worked harder than ever to continue the good work she’s been doing for years.
“And now I’ll learn to ‘Zoom’,” Stanley wrote, “because as Elizabeth Elliot so aptly puts it, ‘you do the next thing’…it might not be the ideal way to operate a first-grade classroom, but for now it is ‘the next thing’. And by His power and might He will equip us all as we move through this pandemic.”
Our teachers and staff continued teaching and loving students, in whatever ways we could, because to us this is our call. For those of us who work at Covenant, a classical education means something.
“We teach differently because we have a different perspective on the Child,” write Dr. Gene Edward Veith and Andrew Kern. We believe that she is nothing less than the Divine Image, an icon of the invisible God. She must not, therefore, be taught following techniques developed to instruct beasts. She must not be reduced to mere chemical responses to electrical stimuli. She must be taught personally, in relationship. We teach different things because we have loftier goals for the child. We govern differently because we have a more serious perception of our task. We assess our work differently because we have higher standards. We confront the challenge of communication because we don’t conform to the spirit of the age.”
Classical education has endured for centuries because of this philosophy, a deeply rooted belief that every child is made in the image of the Creator. In pursuit of truth, goodness, and beauty, we cannot allow any force in this world to get in our way. For centuries, we have kept moving forward, not conforming to the spirit of the age, but instead focusing on being transformed by the renewal of our minds (Rom. 12:2).
We will continue this good work because we love our students, and desire for them to grow in wisdom and virtue. We pray they learn to stand firm in a rapidly changing world with rapidly changing ideas. We love our students deeply. Because this love is rooted in God’s own love for us, and because our education philosophy is rooted in this love, we know that we can bear all things, believe all things, hope all things, and endure all things. (1 Cor. 13:7).
When it was time for Karla do Vale to enter into the workforce after college, she was looking for the kind of working environment that was familiar to her. She reflected on her time at Covenant School, remembering a place where professional relationships were also caring and personal.
“How many senior class trips get chaperoned by the first-grade teacher,” do Vale questioned. “That’s just what Covenant was. It showed me what kind of company to work for.”
She longed for an organization grounded in mentorship and relationships, values she has kept since her time at Covenant. After graduating with her degree in Psychology from Calvin College, she found what she was looking for at Sunrise Senior Living, a senior living network that offers independent living, assisted living, memory care, nursing and rehabilitative services in the United States, Canada and the United Kingdom.
“That balance between professional relationships and mentorship and caring I saw at Covenant— being able to translate that to my work now has been really helpful and enriching for me,” do Vale said.
Karla do Vale, formerly Karla Nyhuis, graduated from Covenant in 2011 before attending Calvin University, then Calvin College, in Grand Rapids, MI. She decided to make the move to Grand Rapids in an effort to forge her own path and gain independence while attending a smaller, Christian liberal arts school, much like Covenant.
“It was a manageable step into the real world,” do Vale explained. “It was a Christian school, but there’s a lot of differences in belief. It was challenging for me because I had to make my faith my own, but Covenant taught me how to figure that out. I knew how to find what I believe and dissect it and talk about it well, and to stand firm in it.”
While at Calvin, she studied Psychology and also met her husband, Fellipe do Vale. When her husband was accepted into Trinity Evangelical Divinity School, the couple moved to Illinois, where she first began her career at Sunrise Senior Living. Now, the couple lives in Plano, TX, where Fellipe is working toward his Ph.D. in Religious Studies from Southern Methodist University, and Karla works as the Associate Director of Sales for Sunrise Senior Living in Plano.
Having worked in multiple different roles for her organization, do Vale has experienced just how well Covenant prepared her for any professional challenge, whether it be in college or the workforce, specifically in areas of writing and logic.
“I took a certification for my work recently, and one of the steps was writing a ten-page paper,” do Vale said, claiming that for many of her colleagues this was a challenge that caused great stress. “I never expected those kinds of things to come up in my professional work. I’m still using them—my teachers were right!”
Aside from college and career readiness, do Vale believes Covenant prepared her to live life well. Her time at Covenant taught her how to acquire and maintain positive Christian friendships, what Christian mentorship looks like, and also how to use her talents and abilities to help others around her.
To the Covenant class of 2020, do Vale has one thing to say: “Be excited for all the things that you have ahead of you. There are just so many wonderful and exciting things in your future, and you’re ready for them. Covenant has prepared you.”
Regardless of all that has actually happened this year, I think we will always remember this as the year that COVID-19 closed all of the school buildings. During this time, so much of the world slowed down, but the teachers and staff at Covenant School were busy at work. Covenant’s teachers faced these challenges head-on, learning entirely new systems and finding creative ways of being a teacher from a distance.
From an educational and curricular perspective, it was an odd way to end the year, especially for classical schools. Classical educators have always resisted fully online education because it sacrifices so much of what is important to us. It’s adequate for delivering content, but we give up all the opportunities for formation, discipleship, and community. All that said, our classical curriculum did help us navigate the transition to distance learning because it gave us a good instinct for what needed attention: the tools for learning that enable our students to become free and independent learners. We focused on what truly matters, and our education continued right through the pandemic.
I am extremely grateful to Covenant’s teachers and staff for their grit in the face of entirely new educational systems and for their wisdom at focusing on what matters. And I’m grateful to the families of Covenant School for their commitment to partner with us in carrying out this education at home.
Of course this year was not entirely defined by the pandemic. We are relieved to have secured sufficient building space for our school. In his providence, God has always provided for Covenant School, and this was no exception. The number of details that needed to align for this to be possible were staggering. And from the outset, it hardly looked possible. But God’s hand was on our school, and the details consistently came together. With 13 grades but only 12 classrooms, we were pressing against the limit of our capacity. Moving forward every Lower School classroom now has a window, and the Upper School has enough classrooms for each teacher. We are in the process of furnishing those classrooms with an atmosphere that matches the quality of our education. The pandemic slowed down our process, but we are continuing with improvements, even over the summer.
It was a delight this year to see our Lower School team put into practice a distinctly classical approach to assessment. In partnership with other classical schools around the country, our team of teachers worked to design a narrative grading system that provides more information to parents, is less reductive than modern numerical reports, and that would address the matters of the heart (A Case for Narrative Grading).
This year we also worked on articulating our profile of the graduate, which provides us a clear and shared goal for all that we do as a school, and it’s worth restating that profile here.
Covenant School faculty and staff seek to cultivate students with a love of learning, wisdom, and virtue who: